Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fig, Date and Walnut Granola Bars

I’ve been wanting to make muesli bars for the longest time now, and I finally got my act together and did it today!

I think I had put off by how long I thought it would take, or possibly the fact that I could just buy them at the store whenever I wanted them... The convenience of it was too much to resist!

But. Boy am I glad that I finally got around to making them myself. Honestly, they couldn’t be simpler. Plus, they don’t have any of the nasty preservatives and chemicals the store bought ones have, not to mention, you can pretty much put whatever you like in them! Works for me.


There’s a pretty simple formula to making granola bars.

You need five things:

1. Grain to make up the bulk

2. Nuts and seeds for protein and flavour

3. Fruit for deliciousness

4. Something sweet and sticky (honey, agave necter, maple syrup, etc).

5. A binder, like butter or a nut butter, apple sauce, or even some processed fruit.


I used walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon and allspice, but it’s so easy to substitute or leave things out with this recipe! You can use whatever nuts, seeds or spices you like. Same goes for fruit! Though make sure it’s dried, otherwise your granola bars will be pretty soggy!

This is the recipe I used, though please be careful as I didn’t measure anything exactly, so it might need some adjustment. Basically, what you want is a mixture that will stick together, and hold.

Date, Fig and Walnut Muesli Bars


2 cups rolled oats (do not use instant oats!)

1 cup chopped figs and dates

1 handful chopped walnuts

2 tsp chia seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

1/3 cup sunflower and pumpkin seek mix

½ cup organic peanut butter

1/3 cup of honey-maple syrup blend (I ran out of honey...)

I also added a spoonful of protein powder and some phsyllium husk for some added goodness


1. Preheat oven to 130˚C and line a tray with baking paper.

2. Throw everything into a bowl together and mix thoroughly until everything is moist and sticks together.

3. Empty onto baking tray and pat down until even.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and firming up.

5. Leave to cool until hard.

6. Slice into bars and store in an air tight container for up to a week.


Like I said, just throw everything into a bowl and mix!


Then pour into a baking tray and press down!


Viola! The finished product!

See what I mean? Eeeeasy!


And oh so tasty!

Seriously, these are the perfect snack. They're delicious, protable and full of goodies to keep your energy levels high without being overloaded with sugar and processed nothings!


All-time new favourite uni snack. Definitely.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roast Rhubarb and Rice Pudding


I really, really like rice pudding. It reminds me of growing up in Perth, with its deliciously cold winters (well, cold by my standards). It was one of those things that mum seemed to just whip up in no time...though now that I’ve made it myself, I fear that this ‘whipping up’ was all in my head.

I decided to combine the rice pudding with rhubarb, to cut through the creaminess a little. And also because I’ve never cooked with rhubarb before and I desperately wanted to, so when I saw it at the local store, I snapped it up faster than you can say ‘Look! Rhubarb!’


Roast Rhubarb:

6 stalks rhubarb

Handlful of red berries (I used raspberries and strawberries)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp orange zest

2 tbs honey

1. Preheat oven to 280˚C.

2. Peel and chop the rhubarb. (My boyfriend, the apprentice chef, tells me it’s important to peel it as if you don’t, it can be quite stringy. Unfortunately, if you do, you also lose a little bit of that lovely red colour. So that’s why I threw in some red fruit!)

3. Put the rhubarb and berries into a roasting pan.

4. Sprinkle over with sugar and orange zest, and then pour over honey.

5. Cook until soft (for me this took 30 minutes)

Rice Pudding:

1 cup rice, preferably medium grain.

2.5 cups milk (I used skim milk)

4 tbs honey, or sugar to taste.

2 tsp vanilla.

1. Cook the rice according to packet instructions.

2. When rice is cooked, add in the milk, honey and vanilla and leave to simmer on medium heat, stirring often until the milk is absorbed.

3. Allow to cool before handling.


1. Spoon rice into glasses or bowls

2. Top with roast rhubarb mixture.

I also roasted some pistachios and added them too, for a little bit of crunch.

This recipe makes about four, but I suppose it does depend on what size glasses you chose to serve the puddings in!


I loved the combination of rice and rhubarb, and couldn’t stop eating either out of their various cooking pots. On the downside, the recipe doesn’t keep very well, so I suggest that if you are pressed for time, only make the rhubarb ahead as the rice tends to become grainy and loses its creaminess in the fridge.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fresh Fraisier - a Daring Baker's Challenge

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

This is the finishes product:


I really enjoyed this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge. Although my poor cake fraisier looks a mess, it was still absolutely delicious! I had a bit of an accident with the pastry cream you see...basically, over half of it ended up on the kitchen floor and I really didn’t have time to go to the grocery store to grab some more eggs, so I made do. I wanted to re-make it later, but unfortunately I never found the time....

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Basic Chiffon Cake

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar


  1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
  2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
  5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
  6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
  7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

I used a different pastry cream recipe to this one, because I don’t eat gelatine, but for the life of me I can’t seem to find it...Oh well, for the vegetarians out there who likewise avoid gelatine, you can simply substitute it in this recipe with agar agar. Bt make sure whatever you put the agar agar into is VERY hot. Otherwise it won’t dissolve.

Pastry Cream Filling:

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream


  1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
  3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
  6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
  7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
  8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
  10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
  11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
  12. Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
  13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple SyrupIngredients:
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water

I also added the zest of half a lemon to make a lemon sugar syrup. It was delicious!


  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
  4. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly:

1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste


  1. Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
  3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
  4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
  5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
  6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
  7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
  8. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
  11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Slump

I’ve been starting to feel a bit weighed down lately. It’s a combination of factors, really. Work, (especially lately) has been getting me down, and although I’m currently on break from uni, it’s definitely another contributing factor. I suppose another part of it is my lack of direction. I really don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing anymore, and I’m the kind of person that needs to know these things. I feel lost and scared without some kind of sense of purpose.

Another big one is that fact that I feel disconnected from my best friend and partner. Since he started working at a fine dining restaurant, it seems that I barely see him, and when I do it’s usually late at night, after our shifts are over. We’re both grumpy and irritable, or – even worse – we can’t think of anything to talk about other than work.

I guess all things these have compounded, and at the moment I’m living in a state of constant exhaustion and irritability.

When I’m unhappy, I turn to food and mind-numbing activities like computer games and random internet surfing. And that pretty much sums up the last four weeks of my life.

And boy, am I sick of it! I feel sluggish and heavy and unhealthy. I’ve stopped going to the gym. I’ve started driving to the bus stop. I’ve barely cooked a thing all month, and whatever I have cooked has been deep fried and soaked in sugar. I’ve started eating packet food. Chips and m&ms, licorice, chocolate, jelly name it. Things that I don’t even like. Things that are processed and bad for me, and only make me feel sick and guilty after eating them.

But I’m holding an intervention. I’m sick of feeling this way, so I’m not going to anymore. Simple as that. There’s not much I can do about uni at this stage – certainly, I can’t do anything until I work out what I actually want to do, and I feel awful for even thinking about quitting my job when we’ve just lost two staff members and haven’t replaced them yet – besides, I’m hoping it’ll get better when the Boss gets back and I can go back to minimal responsibility. BUT. I’m taking charge when it comes to my eating and exercise. I’ve even set myself some goals for July-August.

Here they are:

1. Attend one spin class per week.

2. Attend one pump class per week.

3. A work out of my choice at the gym, every week with the aim of challenging myself.

4. Do an active activity with the boyfriend every week.


6. Drink two litres of water every day (I used to do this as a minimum...I don’t know what happened!)

7. Start running in the morning – 1 or 2 days a week.

Now. I’ve written them down and this makes me accountable. AWESOME. Let’s do it.

P.s. As I sat writing this post...I realised something I’d really like to do. Graphic design. That would be awesome. And creative. And portable. And...awesome. So. I’ll let myself think about it for a bit and then...then what? I still don’t know.